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2019 Lax Preview with ESPN’s Paul Carcaterra

Q&A with Paul “The Barber” Carcaterra

2018 was an amazing year for D1 collegiate lacrosse. We saw Albany’s Dane Train make its first ever Final Four appearance before getting derailed by Yale. Head Coach Andy Shay led the Bulldogs to the program’s first ever National Championship taking down Duke 13-11 in a great Final at Gillette Stadium. ESPN sideline reporter/lacrosse analyst Paul Carcaterra witnessed it first hand and had a chance to experience the excitement with his memorable post game interview with Coach Shay when it finally kicked in that his team had just won it all. It was truly an amazing moment to cap off an amazing college lacrosse season.

Paul took some time to catch up with us and give us some of his insights & thoughts for the upcoming 2019 lacrosse season.

TES: Yale last year had the horses, size and were led by six seniors, who were all drafted into MLL. They lose Ben Reeves, but return one of the top midfields in the country with seniors Jack Tigh, Joey Sessa, & Brendan Mackie. They also return one of the best inside scoring attackmen in Matt Gaudette (10 goals in championship weekend). Oh by the way, they added the BEST faceoff specialist in the country during the offseason in TD Ierlan who transferred from UAlbany.
It’s tough not imagine YALE being first team since Duke 2013/2014 to repeat as back to back champs right?

CARC: Yale lost a lot of big time ballers from last year. Tewaaraton Winner Ben Reeves is the obvious. However, they had incredible senior short stick defensive midfielders led by Tyler Warner. Those dudes aren’t easy to replace…like shutdown corners in football. However, Yale returns five of their top six offensive midfielders, the nations top cover defender in Chris Fake, and Albany transfer TD Ierlan at the face off x. If he wins over 70% of the draws as expected, Yale will be the favorite and would be less than shocking if they repeat. They are clearly the favorites in my mind.

TES: The 2019 season will have some significant changes to the game as we have known it. The shot clock era begins, giving teams 80 seconds to get the ball on goal (20 seconds to get the ball over midfield and the remaining time to get a shot on goal). The crease dive is BACK after much discussion and debate and should be an exciting addition to this year’s games. Lastly the substitution box has been significantly shortened. How do you think each of these changes will impact the game. What are you most excited about with the new rules?

CARC: The shot clock is exciting. In the past, it was too subjective for refs to dictate pace of play. In what other sport does that happen? Now teams will be playing with consistent rules and a shot clock that will provide faster play. The dive is exciting. It’s a play that promotes individuality and athleticism, like the slam dunk in hoops. The box shrinking is significant. Teams will not have the luxury of getting so deep in the defensive zone off of substitutions. This will create more fast breaks.

TES: The Attack position is loaded again this year in D1. Many of the usual suspects return in Pat Spencer- Loyola, Jeff Teat-Cornell, Kyle Marr- Hopkins, Tehoka Nanticoke- UAlbany, Michael Krause- Virginia , and Michael Sowers- Princeton to name just a few. What makes these guys so valuable to their respective teams? Who is your preseason Tewarraton award winner?

CARC: The X attackman or QB is critical if your team wants to win it all. Every year Championship Teams have that guy who runs the offense and initiates from behind the goal. He balances the offense, gives freedom for the midfielders, but also distributes the ball to his teammates. If you don’t have a player who can create match-up problems from the attack position, you become one dimensional (only dodging with middies against shortsticks) and have no shot for continued success.

My favorite for the Tewaaraton is Pat Spencer from Loyola. If you take all the best qualities of the players you mentioned above, Spencer has pieces of each in his game. He’s clearly the best if you ask me.

TES: Notre Dame comes in pre-season ranked #6 and were just dealt a huge blow with Ryder Garnsey being declared academically ineligible. How do you see that impacting their upcoming season?

CARC: Ryder is a legit threat with the ball in his stick. He forces opposing teams to slide to him and he is one of the better low angle shooters I have seen in recent years. He always gives goalies fits with his shooting and freelance style. Losing him is big for Notre Dame. They may have to move a midfielder to attack to make up for the loss. All college lacrosse fans will miss his style and creativity. He is a super fun player to watch.

TES: Utah is scheduled to make its Division 1 Men’s Lacrosse debut this spring on February 1st to kick off the season versus Vermont. How do you see them fairing in their inaugural year and what is the long term impact on the possibility of PAC 12 Men’s Lacrosse?

CARC: I think long term the Utes will be a major fixture in D1 lacrosse and a top 20 program. They have a great staff, PAC12 athletic facilities, and a lot to offer in terms of location (mountains). The first couple years will be a process and it will take some time, most likely a full four year recruiting cycle to be where they want to be.

TES: I feel Jeff Tambroni and his Penn State Nittany Lions have one of their best teams ever this year and can make some noise. They come in ranked #10 this season. How do you see them fairing and who are your sleeper teams for 2019 to look out for?

CARC: Final Four type team in terms of talent, no question. I think they have the best attack in college lacrosse with three players who have different styles and compliment each other. I think they are a final four sleeper type team for sure. I also think UVA will break through this season and potentially make the Final Four for the first time since 2011.

TES: UAlbany comes off its best season yet after being a top ranked team for most of the last year and making that elusive championship weekend.  The Danes lost a fantastic senior class in Connor Fields, JD Colarusso, Kyle McClancy, Stone Sims and the Reh Twins- Justin & Troy. They come in ranked #17 this pre-season which feels a little low considering last year’s success. What is your outlook for the Great Danes in 2019?

CARC: I expect Albany to continue to score goals at an elite pace nationally speaking.  Defensively they had one of their best years ever in 2018.  They had a lot of leadership at that end, with those seniors including 1st team All-American JD Colarusso in the net.  Losing those seniors coupled with losing TD Ierlan’s transfer to Yale, holding teams to under 10 goals per game like last year will be a challenge.  TD won well over 70% of the draws and rested that defense. Look for Albany to be fun on offense and score with the best of them once again.

TES: Last year Tehoka Nanticoke came into UAlbany as the biggest hyped incoming freshman in history, and lived up to the hype delivering a 50 goal season for the Great Danes. Who are some of the incoming freshman this year you think can have an immediate impact?

CARC: Joey Epstein, an attackman from Hopkins is poised for a big year. He is the type of player who will be a big time dodger and ball carrier right away. He has explosiveness, toughness, and quickness that allows him to get passed defenders and score. He will demand the top defender from opposing teams by the end of the season. Will Bowen from UNC is a big athletic defender who I was impressed with when I watched him play this summer. He’s going to be a force in the ACC. Tim Graham from Cornell who is from Australia is another freshman to watch. He went 52-of-100 (.520) at the World Championships, the fourth highest mark in the Blue Division, behind the US duo of Trevor Baptiste (.750) and Greg Gurenlian (.620), and Canada’s Jake Withers (.550). That’s some good company.

TES: This coming June the Premier Lacrosse League is scheduled to launch, led by founders Paul and Mike Rabil. What are your thoughts on the new league and how it will impact the growth of the game nationally?

CARC: It’s great for the sport of lacrosse. I think the exposure and their rollout from a social media standpoint and various other platforms was very impressive. They seem to have everything lined up. Premier players, marketing strategy, and a platform with NBC sports. I am excited to watch this summer. Anytime the lacrosse world gets more exposure in my mind it’s a positive thing. I applaud Paul and Mike for spearheading this endeavor and their creativity, business acumen, and vision is good for the sport.

TES: We are seeing an increase in US players playing in NLL/ Box overall. Guys that were primarily NCAA Field players are now playing more and more box Lacrosse. Box lacrosse is starting to work more and more into youth organizations as well. What are your thoughts on box lacrosse becoming more mainstream in US, and what skills does it help better develop in the field game?

CARC: Box lacrosse obviously has many positive attributes that segway into field lacrosse. Operating in tight quarters, hand-eye coordination, leverage from a body standpoint when you dodge, and physicality are all elements of box lacrosse that help field players take their game to another level. I also think there are certain field players from a style standpoint who can continue to do great things in field lacrosse without having any exposure to box lacrosse. To me it’s a style thing and really helps players who play in tight quarters, two man game type offenses, and defenders off ball. Certain style players don’t necessarily have to be exposed to box lacrosse, however, it will only help and never hurt to take it indoors.

TES: We recently saw an ugly incident in Philadelphia where Lyle Thompson was the target of inappropriate comments by the Philadelphia Wings’ in-game announcer and a handful of fans. Lyle has used his platform to help make this a teachable moment for the entire lacrosse community by taking a stand against racism/hate and stressing compassion, empathy and respect. What was your reaction to what happened and how can we keep this from happening in our game ever again?

CARC: My reaction to what was said is quite simple. It was an ignorant statement by an individual who doesn’t understand the complexity of our sport, it’s origin, and its brotherhood. I am sure he regrets what he said and in the end should be a teachable moment for him and everyone in our sport. Lyle is an amazing ambassador to the sport of lacrosse and to his Native Community. He is one of the greatest players I have ever seen, but most importantly a fantastic person who sees things from a humanistic standpoint the proper way. Anything he has ever said or done it would be hard not to be aligned with his thinking or actions. He is using his platform to teach people and I applaud him for that.

Thanks again for your time as we all eagerly anticipate the upcoming season starting up in about a week. We hope you and the rest of the ESPN broadcast team (Quint Kessenich & Anish Shroff ) will be visiting the Capital District this Spring for one of UAlbany’s home games versus possibly Maryland or Yale. We are all eagerly waiting for the broadcast schedule! You guys are overdue at CitiLine or Across the Street Pub for sure- lunch is on us!

-Mike Tesoriero

Mike Tesoriero
Shaker graduate, Herkimer All-American Attackman 1991 & UAlbany Attackman 1993 Vice President Youth Revolution Lacrosse Program & coach